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Russian Federation expels 23 British diplomats in latest response to spy poisoning crisis

18 March 2018

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was giving the 23 British diplomats one week to leave the country.

Skripal, who was convicted in Russian Federation of selling state secrets to Britain, and his daughter, Yulia were poisoned in the southern city of Salisbury.

Russian voters are gearing up for a presidential election Sunday that Vladimir Putin is guaranteed to win.

Britain, the United States, Germany and France have jointly called on Russian Federation to explain the military-grade nerve toxin attack, which they said threatened Western security.

As well, the ministry warned Britain that "if further unfriendly actions are taken towards Russia, the Russian side retains the right to take other answering measures".

"Our quarrel is with Putin's Kremlin and with his decision - and we think it is overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision - to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the United Kingdom, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War".

"Twenty three diplomatic staff at the British embassy in Moscow are declared persona non grata and to be expelled within a week", the foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday after summoning British ambassador Laurie Bristow.

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Britain has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a Soviet-developed nerve agent.

"We will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our allies and our values against an attack of this sort, which is an attack not only on the United Kingdom, but upon the global rules-based system on which all countries, including Russian Federation, depend for their safety and security", Bristow told reporters after being informed of the expulsions.

The Council has been ordered to cease all operations in Russian Federation, with the Foreign Ministry citing its "unregulated status".

He reiterated the British position that there was "no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable" in the attack in Salisbury.

The diplomats were given one week to leave Russian Federation.

Putin has sought to use the election run-up to emphasize Russia's role as a major world power, recently boasting of its "invincible" new weapons and continuing Moscow's support for the Syrian regime in a bloody civil war.

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn called for "cool heads" on Saturday as he said the attack should be referred to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

More news: Britain expels 23 Russian diplomats over chemical attack on ex-spy

Lorna Wilkinson, director of nursing at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Today's news about the improvement in Sgt Bailey's health is very welcome. It's wrong, it's appalling, it's murder", he said.

No10 said the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will also take a sample of the nerve agent used.

Leaders from the United States, Germany and France joined the accusing Russian Federation of being behind the attack in a statement Thursday.

The announcement from Downing Street on Friday comes after Russian Federation ignored a deadline earlier this week to explain whether it was behind the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4 and instead demanded access to the evidence.

Mr Skripal, a former colonel in the GRU who betrayed dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence, and his daughter have been critically ill since March 4, when they were found unconscious on a bench. They remain in a critical condition.

UK-Russia relations have been fractious ever since the assassination of another former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, in 2006. She was never bothered by the fact that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a United Nations watchdog, and the Pentagon confirmed that the Syrian government's chemical weapons had actually been destroyed.

A Russian scientist disclosed details of a secret program to manufacture the military-grade nerve agents in the 1990s, and later published the formula.

More news: Russian Federation expels 23 United Kingdom diplomats as fallout over nerve agent attack grows